Day 5 — Thursday, December 1, 2022

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples — of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:1–10

Do you remember a time you moved through a forest or under a tree and felt wonder? Your breath deepened. Your spirit lightened. You may have started humming…

“For the beauty of the earth, 
for the glory of the skies… 
For the wonder of each hour 
of the day and of the night, 
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light.”

Humans have had a special relationship with trees throughout history. The tree of life is a recurrent symbol. The Tree of Knowledge is at the root of Christianity and Judaism. 

An apple tree in England inspired a genius by failing to defy gravity. An elm tree in Massachusetts rallied a defiant group of colonists. An oak tree in Virginia sheltered the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. A pear tree in New York, crushed by falling towers, lives on as a symbol of resilience. 

Isaiah portrays resiliency through the prophetic image of a shoot sprouting from the stump of a seemingly dead tree. Similar language is used in the Book of Job:

“For there is hope for a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.”

By the time of Christ’s birth, the house of David, Jesse’s son, had been reduced to a stump. In this poverty we see Mary and Joseph, David’s descendent. But from this stump there came a branch. Light came, and the branch, watered by the Spirit and fulfilling God’s covenant, became a strong rod, worthy of ruling as King of Kings. 

The next time you feel cut down or cut off, find a forest. Observe trees growing and how their interconnectedness makes them healthier in diverse communities. Think about how they pass information on to new generations through the soil. Reflect on their roots, mirroring the networks in our own brains, as awe-inspiring evidence of a grand design. Look for the light that comes through the canopy to bring life. But most importantly, find sprouts among stumps and feel wonder.

Scott Travis is the executive director of Alumni Engagement at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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